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Published 6 junio 2023
According to Drewry, the proportion of smart containers within the global fleet is forecast to grow from 4% to 25% by 2026. In this article we look at the incentives driving this growth and the legal and operational impacts of adopting smart containers.
What makes a container 'smart'?
A 'smart' container is a container that has been fitted, either at the time of manufacture or retroactively, with an internet connected device or devices which monitor and transmit, in real- or near-time, various data points regarding the container and its contents. A smart container can also receive instructions, allowing for remote adjustment of parameters such as temperature.
The data points that these devices can capture include:
There is a growing variety of available devices but generally they consist of a series of sensors, plus a source of power (including solar) and a means of connecting to the internet.
The business case for adopting smart containers
Several of the largest global shipping lines have begun to offer smart containers to their customers, including CMA CGM, Maersk and MSC, for both dry and refrigerated cargoes. As the cost of smart devices continues to reduce, the business case for adopting smart containers has become ever more compelling, offering broad benefits to shipping lines, including:
Ultimately, those shipping lines who invest in smart containers and provide their customers with easy access to the data collected are likely to achieve significant competitive advantage compared to non- or late adopters. Further, certain IOT manufacturers are now offering removable devices that beneficial cargo owners and shippers can install in containers at the time of stuffing. A carrier will have little or no control or access to the data collected by such a device and will therefore be at an information disadvantage should the carriage of the container result in a claim for loss or damage.
Legal and operational considerations
The adoption of smart containers raises several interesting legal questions which a shipping line may wish to consider as part of its overall risk management process when implementing the new technology:
In addition to legal considerations, the adoption of smart containers will require shipping lines to consider operational questions such as:
The greater adoption of smart containers is a huge step towards greater visibility across the supply chain, benefitting shippers and shipping lines alike and providing second order benefits relating to important ESG objectives. Adopting any new technology is not without risk however, and the successful installation of smart containers across a fleet calls for consideration of legal, operational and cyber-security issues to ensure the necessary contractual and policy frameworks are in place to support the change.
London - Walbrook
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Tim Ryan, Joanne Waters